How Did Cell Phones Become Such A Popular Thing To Pawn?

TVs, laptops, tools, jewelry… they are all well-known items to appear in pawn shops.


But just how is it that cell phone became one of the most popular items to come through the doorways of pawnshops across the country and abroad?

The History Of Cell Phones And Pawn Shops

It was 1983. Michael Jackson and The Police dominate the Billboard charts. Ewoks became a thing for better or worse. Political leaders thought browns suits were still a strong fashion statement. Most importantly for our purposes however is that the first commercial cell phone went on sale, the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X.

It was a far cry from the touchscreen device we all carry around with us today. There was no email to be sent from it, Facebook wasn’t even a thought yet, and text messages? Forget it.

That having been said, for well-to-do executives, the cellular telephone made sense. They didn’t see immediate popularity, but they did do well over time as evidenced by the fact that you are likely reading this from one right now.

The “Breaking Point” For Cell Phone Popularity

Some might point to the iPhone in 2007 as being that moment in time when the cell phone hit the mainstream, but that really came way back in 1998 with the release of the well-known but oft-forgotten Nokia 5110. It had a lot of appeal and was available in a variety of colors, setting the stage for the even more popular Nokia 3210.

This was the phone that almost everyone had at the time, and really was the first such device to capture such mainstream attention. There was an entire aftermarket built around the Nokia 3210, and it became an item that you could use to display your more trendy side depending on how you customized it.

In the period between 1998/1999 and 2007, there were quirky smartphone innovations, some great, some gladly forgotten in the past, but all continued to push the “Image” of having a new cell phone as a social necessity.

Cell phones were quickly becoming social capital, but in 2007 with the release of the first Apple iPhone, it became a cemented part of American culture – only those with the newest flagship cell phone mattered.

The Time Since

With every new year it seemed, a new flagship phone would be released by every major electronics manufacturer it would seem, and every year, socialites would buy the newest model, leaving last year’s model in the dresser drawer.

Eventually, as time went on, and the economy went into recession in late 2007, more and more people found that they needed to come up with some quick cash. Pawnshops were always an option, people younger 23 and 24-year-old young adults who didn’t have the time or experience to acquire commonly pawned items, like jewelry for instance, turned to what they did have to pawn… electronics.

In this case, it happened to be cell phones that were most often looked to as they happen to just be a year old or so in many cases and still held their value well.

Pawnshops for their part were happy to work with this type of item because they were still in very high demand in general. Over time, this demand fell slightly due to how often cell phones could and would be turned in after stolen, but none the less, pawnshops still worked with customers to make loans on them, or offer to buy them outright should that be the best option for the customer.

As cell phones have only become more popular, the rest, as they say, is history.